• September 21, 2014

Aycock: Rethink highway funding

Texas needs new revenue stream for road construction

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Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013 4:30 am

“Suicidal” was how state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, chose to describe himself for supporting an increase in the Texas state fuel tax earlier this month.

Although no bill has been proposed — and one probably won’t be this legislative session — Texans need to find a new revenue stream for transportation, Aycock said.

Texans pay 38.4 cents of every gallon of gas they purchase to a combination of state and federal taxes.

The Texas Department of Transportation, which gets much of its funding from the tax, is $13 billion in debt and is losing its ability to issue more, the Texas Tribune reported last month.

At 20 cents, Texas is in the midrange of state fuel taxes, far below New York and California, which pay 51.2 cents and 50.6 cents, respectively.

The tax has not been increased in 22 years, when a gallon of gas cost about a dollar, Aycock said.

Texas is also a “donor” state when it comes to the blanket 18.4 cent federal fuel tax, because it gives more than it receives.

In 2009, Texas received just 83.5 percent of what it paid in federal fuel taxes, costing Texans about $672 million, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Local needs

Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin defended Aycock after Austin-based conservative blogger Michael Quinn Sullivan criticized the lawmaker last week for supporting the fuel tax increase.

“Jimmie Don is one of the few people down there that are smart enough to do what’s right,” Corbin said.

“It’s probably what is fiscally conservative but most of the people down there are going to do whatever it takes to get re-elected.”

Killeen has almost $150 million in local and state funded transportation projects on the books for the next 10 years and many of those projects are funded through the city’s property taxes, Corbin said.

State funded pass-through financing projects, such as the $18 million State Highway 195 and 201 overpass and Rosewood extension projects, have contributed to TxDOT’s mounting debt.

Sullivan said TxDOT debt is caused by a broken spending system and, until it is fixed, Texas lawmakers should not consider raising taxes.

“Before we put more money into the system, let’s spend the money better,” Sullivan said.

More than 24 percent of the state fuel tax revenue funds public schools.

Sullivan said that an additional 20 percent of the tax revenue funds non-transportation-related expenditures such as the Department of Public Safety and elaborate rest stop facilities.

“Rest stops used to be a wooden picnic table and a bathroom, now they are these big Taj Mahal-looking places,” Sullivan said.

“Let’s put 100 percent of those dollars into road and bridge construction and then find a stable and efficient source of revenue.”

Technology taxes

Both Aycock and Sullivan agree that the fundamental problem with the fuel tax is that it was created when car manufacturers and consumers were not worried about fuel efficiency.

“As vehicles get more miles per gallon and more cars are on the road, the price of steel and concrete continues to go up, labor costs go up, so you can’t continue to fund transportation like you used to,” Aycock said.

Aycock said he never signed a pledge to not raise taxes, as Sullivan’s letter insinuates.

“I am flexible and willing to look at all kinds of options,” Aycock said. “But we need to consider new sources of revenue for transportation.”

Aycock said the proposal would likely be a combination of a fuel tax increase, registration increase and other fees.

“The fundamental question is not where it is going to come from but that there needs to be a new revenue stream for transportation,” he said.

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3 comments:

  • Eliza posted at 10:48 am on Mon, Mar 25, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 770

    # 3 would seem a good idea to myself,

    There is an awful lot of tax dollars spent in the state's education system on illegal children brought into the country.
    The money spent, used to be noticed mostly in the border states but now the problem has expanded to all states in the U.S.

    The citizens of the country were led to believe all the illegal's were involved in while inside the county was the job of picking crops and agriculture type work. Then they would go back to their real homes until the next time they were needed and anted to work.

    But the people now know, these working illegal's have infiltrated through out the country and are not only picking crops, but are also in our meat packing plants,clothing industry,construction,they are even involved in helping build the roads for use by vehicle use talked of in this article.

    They themselves make use of the roads talked of, but put no tax money into the system to help care for or reconstruct them.

    The problem of educating children who come in with their people or who are born after the parent/s have entered the country illegally, has reached such a level its nearly beyond control. The problem of children who are not U.S. citizens but being educated paid for by the tax system, has helped increase our money problems until now Texas tax payers may be punished by having a gasoline tax increase placed against them.

    Some politician's have tried to make the people of the different states feel they have an obligation to educate the children who are in the country only because their parent's have chosen to import them inside the U.S. borders. But no obligation should be felt when it may end up causing undue strife on the education ,or of the pocket book of the true citizens of the country.

    The below was written in 2010,only a couple of years ago and is pertaining to the problem and cost of educating children who the people really should have no obligation toward.

    As the debate on illegal immigration rages in Washington and state capitals, it’s troubling to see both sides rely on emotional rhetoric to the detriment of facts. The impact of illegal immigration on public education is a case in point.

    No one can deny that increasing numbers of children of illegal immigrants attend public schools in the United States and that U.S. taxpayers pay the costs. Those sympathetic to illegal immigration tend to remain silent about these costs, while illegal-immigration opponents often fall short on specifics. In the interest of more informed discourse, here are the numbers.

    According to a study released last year by the Pew Hispanic Center, as of 2008, 11.9 million illegal immigrants lived in the United States, more than triple the 3.5 million who lived in the country in 1990.

    Among the states, California has the largest number of illegal immigrants with 2.7 million, nearly double the 1.4 million in Texas. California’s illegal-immigrant population has swelled by 1.2 million since 1990, while Texas has added a million. A large proportion of illegal-immigrant households are families.

    Nearly half, 47 percent, of illegal-immigrant households consist of parents with children. This proportion is more than double that of U.S.-born households, where just 21 percent are parents with children. Over the years, the number of children of illegal immigrants has increased significantly.

    In 2003, there were 4.3 million children of illegal immigrants. By 2008 that number had climbed to 5.5 million, more than the entire population of Colorado. The large number of children of illegal immigrants greatly impacts public schools and education-funding costs.

    The Pew study found that in 2008, “Children of unauthorized immigrants are 6.8 percent of students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12,” an increase from the 5.4 percent in 2003. The proportion was double in California, where 13.5 percent of k-12 students in 2008 were the children of illegal immigrants.

    Given these percentages, cost estimates of educating these children are staggering.

    The U.S. Census Bureau just released 2008 figures showing the national average total per-pupil funding from all revenue sources was $12,028. Although estimates of the number of school-age children of illegal immigrants don’t separate those attending public vs. private schools, it’s reasonable to assume that nearly all attend public schools since most come from lower-income families. Therefore, if one multiplies $12,028 by the roughly 3.7 million students with illegal-immigrant parents, then one gets a national total funding cost of $44.5 billion.

    In California, total funding per pupil from all state, federal and local revenue sources was $11,649. With roughly 923,000 students in the state with illegal-immigrant parents, these students represented a total cost of nearly $10.8 billion out of a total 2008 k-12 education budget of $72 billion. An important caveat is that these totals rely on average per-pupil funding numbers.

    The actual cost of schooling these children could be higher because many education dollars are earmarked for special purposes. At the federal level, Title I funds are sent to schools to support disadvantaged children, which benefits many children of illegal immigrants. In California, the state’s Economic Impact Aid program provides tax dollars to fund English-language acquisition, which aids children of illegal immigrants. Capital costs for school construction may have increased at a higher rate because of the influx of children of illegal immigrants.

    Although almost three-quarters of the children of illegal immigrants were born in the United States and are therefore citizens, had their parents not entered the U.S. illegally these children likely wouldn’t be in U.S. public schools and wouldn’t require taxpayer funding. Thus, it’s fair to say that their education cost stems from their parents’ illegal entry into this country.

    The public-education establishment can’t have it both ways on this issue. The Los Angeles school board, for instance, harshly criticizes Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, but also complains about its own budget shortfalls. The numbers, however, confirm that illegal immigration imposes large costs on the public school system. Policymakers should acknowledge and wrestle with this expensive reality instead of satisfying themselves with cheap rhetoric.

    Lance T. Izumi is Koret senior fellow and senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

     
  • Pete posted at 1:10 pm on Sun, Mar 24, 2013.

    Pete Posts: 116

    Sir,

    I don't need a Texas star on every highway project. I don't need fancy landscaping and limestone tile work. Things may be costing more because of having champagne taste on a beer budget.

    Your seven possible solutions in my order of preference:

    1 - 3. Yes the educational industry should stand on their own. Learning doesn't necessarily need to happen in the fancy facilities school leaders build for themselves. Lots of waste in education.
    2 - 2. Toll roads increased just long enough for TXDot to pay down their debt, get on a spending diet and then return the roads to free.
    3 - 4. At least this tax is progressive in that some can choose to limit the miles they drive for pleasure (not work)
    4 - 5. Would be a damper to economic growth. Would adversely impact those who drive for a living.
    5 - 7. If TXDot can get its spending problem under control, this alternative could move up the charts, but I have my doubts.
    6 - 1. I find TX roads to be in pretty good shape compared to other states.
    7 - 6. Very regressive tax. Introduce some equity. Charge higher fees to cars that cost more and to those who can afford it. Put DPS in a spending diet too as well as the rest of the many law enforcement industry layers Texas supports in its mini police state.

     
  • JDAycock posted at 8:47 am on Sun, Mar 24, 2013.

    JDAycock Posts: 1

    I am acutely aware that no one likes paying taxes. The reality is that Texas can no longer fund our roads with the present tax structure. All of the following are being discussed as possible solutions:

    1. Do nothing and tell folks they must live with existing roads.
    2. In heavily populated areas, use toll roads.
    3. Pass a constitutional amendment diverting money away from public education to road construction.
    4. Increase the motor fuels tax.
    5. Institute a new "odometer tax" paid on miles driven.
    6. Significantly increase vehicle registrations fees.
    7. Continue borrowing money for road construction and pay the debt at a future time.

    While it is easy to simply say NO to all of these positions, as your Representative I am tasked with trying to find solutions for problems. I do not believe that simply saying no is a solution. I understand the frustration on this issue and solicit suggestions that create solutions.

    Jimmie Don Aycock
    State Representative
    District 54